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February 8 - 22, 2006

Frames of Mind

 


February 8 (Wednesday) 7pm

First Program of the Lumière Brothers

Directed by Louis and Auguste Lumière
France, 1895, b/w, 9 min.

This selection of early silent cinema features landmark works from the Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès. With the invention of the Cinématographe, the Lumière brothers saw the potential of the new medium to both capture and project images of everyday life in their pioneering "actualités." The French magician, illusionist, film director, artist, and designer Georges Méliès took a markedly different turn from his contemporaries, constructing never-before-seen worlds in which human beings become comic creatures with fantastic costumes and makeup, liable to disintegrate or metamorphose into anything.

A Trip to the Moon

Directed by Georges Méliès
France, 1902, b/w, 12 min.

At the very birth of the cinema the pioneering French magician, illusionist, film director, artist, and designer Georges Méliès (1861-1938) recognized the immense potential of the new medium to create never-before-seen worlds. Between 1896 and 1912 he directed some 500 films, of which fewer than 100 are known to have survived. Described by Chaplin as an "alchemist of light", Méliès was at once illusionist and pantominist: in his films, human beings become comic creatures with fantastic costumes and makeup, liable to disintegrate or metamorphose into anything.

The Vanishing Lady

Directed by Georges Méliès
France, 1896, b/w, 6 min.

A Trick of the Light (Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky)

Directed by Wim Wenders
Germany, 1995, b/w, 80 min.
With Udo Kier, Nadine Büttner, Christoph Merg
German with English subtitles

Six weeks before the Lumière brothers' legendary screening in Paris of the "first" motion picture, three German brothers in Berlin screened eight film loops. In between the acrobatics and juggling that also occupied their life, Max, Eugen, and Emil Skladanowsky had invented the Bioskop. A century later, internationally renowned filmmaker Wim Wenders brings these little-known pioneers to the fore with this whimsical and touching film. With the help of his students from the Munich Film Academy, Wenders captures their story with a mix of documentary and recreated footage - much of it shot silent at eighteen frames per second with a vintage hand-cranked camera.

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February 15 (Wednesday) 7pm

Germany Year Zero

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy/France/Germany, 1947, b/w, 78 min.
With Edmund Moeschka, Franz Kruger, Barbara Hintz
German with English subtitles

The third installment of Rossellini's war trilogy (following Open City and Paisan) was, according to the director, "an attempt to discover the real reasons which had driven the Germans to act as they had done." Using nonprofessional actors and a neorealist style, the film focuses on its young protagonist, Edmund, and the devastated city in which he lives. Rossellini conceived the film around the final scenes of Edmund wandering in the ruins of Berlin. This long final sequence marks the end of a narrative trajectory that begins in the mode of documentary reportage but becomes ever more hallucinatory, charting a journey through a strange and devastated landscape.

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February 22 (Wednesday) 7pm

Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein
USSR, 1925, b/w, 65 min.
With Alexander Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Alexandrov

The Soviet silent cinema of the 1920s represented a great creative moment in the history of cinema, and Battleship Potemkin is often regarded as its supreme achievement. In rendering his account of the 1905 Black Sea mutiny and the sympathetic response it received from the people of Odessa, Eisenstein makes brilliant use of montage-the juxtaposition of individual shots-both to provide drama through subtle alterations of space and time and to create striking metaphoric relationships that bolster his political arguments. The film's formal beauty is balanced by the stark power and humanity of its realist depiction of the suppression of an outraged populace.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700